DiSanto honoured for excellence

September 09, 2004, vol. 31, no. 6
By Marianne Meadahl

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David DiSanto, a PhD student con-ducting research in SFU's compound semiconductor device laboratory, is the recipient of a prestigious Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Electron Devices Society (EDS) graduate student fellowship.

The award recognizes outstanding academic excellence in the field of physics and engineering. The IEEE program promotes, recognizes and supports graduate study and research within the EDS's field of interest.

DiSanto is the sole researcher working on the fabrication and characterization of a new semiconductor known as gallium nitride. It has a broad range of applications, from lasers to telecommunications.

“A lot of gallium nitride's behaviour is confusing,” he explains. “When you apply a voltage to operate a gallium nitride transistor, for example, it starts out performing well, but it quickly degrades. Right now I'm characterizing that degradation.”

DiSanto did his master's degree at UBC and his bachelor of engineering at Queen's University. He came to SFU to work under physics and engineering professor Colombo Bolognesi, who credits his student not only with setting up a device fabrication process in a new material system, but single-handedly developing all the necessary process steps.

DiSanto says his work has much to do with Bolognesi's drive. “He is the strength of this lab,” says DiSanto. Several of Bolognesi's students have earned awards. “He sets you up for success, and then he expects it.”

Bolognesi says DiSanto's success has grown in the face of personal challenges. A young father of three, DiSanto's second child was diagnosed with autism. The parents committed themselves to two years of twice daily therapy shifts, beginning as early as 5 a.m. and repeating long into the evenings. As a result, their son is now able to enter kindergarten in the regular school system.

“Throughout this ordeal he never once complained he had too much work at SFU, nor has he ever denied assistance to more junior students in my group,” notes Bolognesi. “In fact, David is not only my most senior student; he is the pillar of my team.”

DiSanto will be honoured by the society at a meeting in December.

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